quest for a heart

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: dreamscape
She was kidnapped by a tribe who betrayed friendship.

Driven by what may befall her, Thagnar risks his life and tribal respect of the tribe when they refuse to help free Taqque. A strong will must defy a danger laden trek to rescue the woman of his life. Would one man's dedication be enough in this stone age period?

Submitted: January 04, 2019

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Submitted: January 04, 2019

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Hands joined together in a bond. The confines with miniscule light, a man hugging his companion from behind, turns her to face him. Thagnar places a bone necklace round her neck, Taqque touches it her face awed. Thagnar in his own and still time tested way established his commitment, Taqque took his hands in hers, an unspoken pledge between man and woman.

 

The couple part and she picked off the animal hide mat his hunting gear. Thagnar, carrying this emerges into the morning daylight. Before him is a scattering of several dozen tent like shelters dotting the valley, each supported by a wooden frame. Familiar to him because it’s what he just walked out from. Shelters had the wooden frames almost completely covered with bark or like his place, animal hide. People clothed in pelt go about their daily lives, children and older people.

 

Portable dwellings are a feature of people who survive moving place to place in a period minus the written word, the Stone Age. In line with responsibility having taken in the air he walks off, planning to meet with his hunting party. Food a resource not for the picking, the lifestyle depends on people stalking wild game or trapping meals.

 

Later the camp has some valley visitors, the tribe chief among those extending greetings. Taqque’s life had responsibilities too. By the stream fur pelts are washed by hand.

The sun dangles in its afternoon position. The hunting party on their return were surprised to the extent dropping their game. Their home carries an air chaos, the people looked disturbed, a few shelters showed signs of being pulled down forcefully.

 

They are told a tale by their shaken clan. Betrayal is the cry. The men either shocked, angry or both. A group people by the men relate the visitors had come to check how good the hunting site was here and without warning after getting along well, attacked. The camp fled, returning when the men were truly gone. They’d stolen belongings from the people.

 

What made the surprise attack worse or another way, successful, was that they were on good terms. There’s a feeling the friendship was advantaged.

 

Suddenly caught by the worse fear, Thagnar began walking briskly in the direction of his shelter, only to be stopped by a woman putting hands on his chest, ‘Taqque is the only person they grabbed.’

‘You all ran and left her!’ biting words out of pain than proof.

‘Happened so fast, must’ve caught Taqque cleaning clothes…she was gone by the time everybody came back!’

A hunter tried to console him, ‘Your anger must fall on those who took what was ours.’

 

Thagnar exhales loudly.

 

Under a great tree were the people and their shaman, along with the chief. The sun still in it’s afternoon position had shifted a ways. The shaman a woman of advanced years, tossed into a bowl some items like a piece of horn, sea shell, feather and a polished stone. The large crowd present await the outcome. She shook the bowl a while and put it down. Like that the divination was complete.

 

‘From this our sacred ancestors will light our path.’ Their ancestors to this religious band are like gods.

 

She gazed intently at the how the bowl’s contents are arranged after the shake. What feels an eternity of a wait ends. ‘Our clothes will not wear out, our bellies will not run hungry, our young ones will suckle, our tribe must remain as a bundle of sticks that cannot break, despite the “ill water.” So says our fathers.’

 

No sooner had the crowd began to speak of the revelation amongst themselves had Thagnar said that’s not what he came for. The woman says Taqque will remain with them in spirit. Thagnar asks if Taqque was well.

‘Well with those men?’ she asks him. He nods.

‘I would know should ancestors tell,’ came this next cryptic reply.

 

A while passed for his face twisted in regret. ‘I should be bashed upon stone for thinking so.’ Thagnar insists the clan join to hurry and rescue her. ‘She was one of you. Any of you would want someone come for you.’

 

Someone in the crowd openly wonders if the ancestors would approve. The chief tried to steady their faith.

 

‘Ancestors know Taqque will be joining them one day, surely they would want her saved,’ persisted Thagnar.

‘We must listen for when ancestors tell us rescue her.’

In response to the shaman, Thagnar tensely, ‘That time is when?’  

 

An hour hadn’t passed before he was about to enter the chief’s dwelling, determination marks his face. He bends down to enter past the two guards.

 

Darkened surroundings, both men sat face to face, lent itself to the feeling whatever is spoken of great concern felt more so here than were it in other places. Tribe chief Oraggnum, hair partly greyed, a witness of many a season, is dressed in clothes symbolizing his rank.

 

‘Longer we wait…’ then he is interrupted by chief.

‘Our people found tracks there was no catching them. Taqque is a part of our tribe as she is a part of you.’ He goes on, ‘We knew them as men we could exchange things for. In all my days I could never see them throwing mud on us.’

‘Men of that tribe came to us in friendship, breaking it. Then we must answer them as they did to us.’

Oraggnum brings up a concern, ‘Fighting them puts all our tribe in danger.’ Thagnar opens his mouth to speak what is obvious but before he can, ‘Can our people live with themselves and can you forgive yourself if all of us suffer from one bad step?’

 

‘The shaman compared us to a bundle of sticks, a bundle weakens with one missing.’

‘Talking to them is on my mind.’

‘That is sure to get Taqque home?’

‘Your own people would feel its best knowing what fighting for one woman would bring.’

‘Taqque’s stealers prove strength is what you chief need.’

‘The burdens of leadership…’ the needed choices are many times the hardest. ‘She is like your own heart.’

 

Thagnar clenched his teeth.

 

‘It’s hardest on me,’ says the chief. Concerns over a bigger conflict and the time it would take to get her back for they are a people who must find new hunting grounds weighed on him. ‘Thagnar promise us you will not chase after her on your own. I will bring her home, but my way. Please.’

The man nods, ‘I hear your words.’

 

His leaders made the decision for him. Supplies of tools, a spear and dried meat in a pouch on his person, Thagnar has a gourd of water made of a calabash vine. He glanced over his shoulder at the settlement a few miles away, his back is turned to for the sake of a commitment he may never lay eyes on  again.  This momentous evening the sky was in the early darkening phase, sunlight scattered by the air into beautiful red and orange colors.

 

Evening darkened closer to dusk. Hours into his journey he hadn’t left the valley but far from home, spotted men of his tribe searching, he expected they, following social custom would be too engaged in meal time that hour to smell his absence. An outdoors man such as he ducked them.

 

He treks several days and many miles, reflected on his eyes the vastness and diversity of the land.

 

The fact the offending tribe was nomadic is a powerful motivator for his rescue. They could in days be anywhere with his woman. Situated beside a series of hills was where he knew the tribe camp should be. The constructions were different from the skin huts he knew, what he saw couldn’t be moved place to place. In Thagnar’s or his clan’s thoughts picking up your home and moving is the difference between life or starvation when food runs scare. They’d be lucky spending even most of a season at a given place. There was something else off - the afternoon was barren of people.

 

The tribe a rarity they'd laid down the bare semblance of a permanent settlement now vanished, a few wooden structures, quite small huts dot the place. Thagnar’s tired body inspects them, best he came up with are signs of life. Inside he leans his back against a wall.

 

By contrast his people do not live in permanent settlements as shelter using transportable ones. That and caves are used when their life revolved on moving place to place. Man, woman nor domestic animal in sight. It's an unexpected turn, his face reflects perplexion, and he speaks of it. ‘These people are gone and so is any word on Taqque’s fate.’ Looking to the sky rebukes, ‘You remain silent ancestors.’

 

It’s easy to envision this lone presence as last man of a people. His search came to an undeniable stop and he himself. His mind later leads him to walk around, rather aimlessly. By chance he came upon a field of planted food and foot tracks and drag marks on the ground in sight of the settlement, his increased attention indicated when his body knelt to the ground and touched with a hand and elects to follow.

 

‘Waiting around here is no good.’ Catching himself in a hut a few more hours, he left in the cool of the evening.

 

If you travelled a couple more days as him gives an idea of how much of a big thing it is for one person and willpower to carry on. Thagnar sits at a morning camp, ashes are all that remained of his small fire. His gaze is settled a few hundred feet for a cub wondered into view. His mind divided between curiosity and the future ahead. All this travel and no other humans in sight – a hint of small population.  

 

The cub only half concerned the man and despite far off and seemingly safe from harm, a huge mother cave bear on all fours charges with a roar.

 

Death rapidly approaching, he dashes away. His flight took him to a cliff’s edge – an end by falling or from the onrushing beast.  His brain barely began searching another way of flight when mother was upon him. Up close he could really appreciate how dwarfed he was by a creature weighing hundreds of pounds.

 

He dodges a paw swipe. No time to think he dashes again toward oblivion – the cliff edge and goes over. There hangs on for dear life by his fingers off the edge, a lethal fall below. Mother follows, menacingly stops by the edge, growls and roars and in a short time trots away. The man didn’t dare pull himself up but clung for some time.

 

Returning to camp, the animals had helped themselves to the rest of his meat. A bear is what he’d seen on cave paintings.

 

Thagnar the intrepid, can only think to continue his journey. Legs carried him a few more nights, his mind recorded what his eyes captured of the scenery.

 

Then he made it. The tribe was situated on a plain. The homes were not the wood kind he met, but the ones he lived in, covered with animal hide, the people go about their lives – a people so much like his own. The men must have moved with some speed with the woman and spoils, despite departing the day after he never caught up. His outdoors man lifestyle served him well reaching his destination for real this time, he strolled right in and asked her return.

 

He is escorted to see the leader. He met a man, Tamata, outdoors, the wind sweeping the land and people’s clothes and hair.

‘You walked all that way over some wrong we did?’

‘A woman, Taqque. Have you seen her?’

‘Before you came our men did bring someone.’

‘Come as brothers only to rob like snakes! Leave her with and we will go in peace.’

‘Our chief is away, you must take your cause with him when he returns.’

Thagnar clenches his teeth. Just when will he see her?

 

The chief is away and the fellow in charge instructs treated hospitably even given shelter, grateful for a fresh meal too denied by the bear...he shows no sign of concern.

 

Next morning taken outside by a boy and walking some distance towards a number of adult males arranged in a particular fashion waiting for him. The whole camp was witness. Tamata remarks if such a man had strength to walk many days for a woman, time to see if he has strength this time.

 

At spear point he is forced to run the gauntlet – two rows, the men face each other leaving a gap he must run through and unable to protect his head with his hands tied behind his back. As he runs he is hit by clubs.

 

Collapsing inside to his knees, a man knees him flat to the ground, his quest at an end, he doesn’t have it in him but move feebly a few inches, the blows sap his strength. Soon the thought of saving her: she wouldn’t give up on him and so he mustn’t on her, he will see that necklace again, gave him a spurt of strength to rush the remaining length, blows and all and emerge out the other end, he stammers, pain of his flesh out of his control. Onlookers are surprised.

 

His nativity is not long evaporating. Reality crashes down.

 

He’ll die a slave sooner than set eyes on his tribe again – is what he was informed will be his fate, all without setting eyes upon the trinket he gave her.

 

This hunter of note back home is in a cage when not taking orders from those he came to talk with – this is what brother means to these people. These men are who Oraggnum would bargain Taqque’s freedom for? His heart sank knowing she was lost to him.

 

There was a strong chance in better days he’d crack a few skulls, the running took a mental toll than physical. In bondage he observes things and some tribe members observe him a while or barely.

 

During this, shared some illuminating words with an older woman.

 

He showed no sign of concern arriving to the camp of a people that stole his treasure, in hindsight rather naïve.

 

He bided his time wisely. Under cover of darkness escapes his cage, with a sharpened flint piece. A thing he wasn’t supposed to have. Instead of leaving the camp, rushes over to a certain shelter ignoring all others. Passing through the entrance, smashed a man with his fist.

 

He grabs a woman off the floor. Not her.

 

The people there have a startled response. ‘Taqque! I’m calling you.’ He looks around franticly. A figure in the near total darkness is in front him.

‘Thagnar!’

He wasn’t gazing at the barely discernible face but the necklace. ‘I knew you came. They wouldn’t let us meet.’

 The couple embrace.

‘Worthy of a man’s heart.’ He says as his chief had.

 

Taqque grabs someone’s arm to his confusion, ‘Forgot me already? I’m the reason you found this place.’

 

The elderly woman he’d learned about his love from and the exact shelter to find.

‘Should have said you wanted to leave. Why abandon your tribe? And taking two people…’

‘You throw away the one who risked all they had for you?’

The man is silent.

 

No time to spare, like that he spirited away with both into the night.

 

In heat of fleeing camp a considerable distance, feet moving fast, Taqque voices worry over footprints the enemy is sure to come looking, the hunter concurs as a hunter himself all too aware. Not unfounded torches, sounds of bodies and voices perilously make themselves known. In response Syrai orders walking through the chilly, moving water of a stream whilst the hunter also briskly walked a short distance on the ground to leave misdirecting prints. The hunter congratulates the woman’s wit re-joining them. 

‘We must avoid foot paths,’ she said.

 

Dawn had barely broke, the party had rested during a few hours before and are now on the move. Every step put pursuers behind. In day time he got another look at his extra responsibility. Elderly she was but slender and attractive, maintained her figure over the years, source of the sharpened flint piece too and the go between himself and Taqque.

 

‘I was a chance to escape,’ Thagnar says, ‘And I thought you were only helping a slave when you carried words between Taqque and me.’

She chose tackling his question from the night before, ‘You alone thought bondage was only for you? Never saw me in a cage don’t think I had a heart for your enemies.’

He could not think of a reason to doubt, how can he? ‘Tamata is the head of snakes.’ All he could say. During his enslavement she asked about his homeland. Could she have compared what he said of it with Taqque?

 

Hours to come consist of only two things, bar an exception: walking and keeping an eye out. Exception was Thagnar remembering the field he saw. Syrai explains to him the usually nomadic tribe dug channels in the ground with sticks to plant seeds. Once grown into plants would be picked and eaten. To watch over the plants as they grew, wood huts let them stay in one place. The people moved as not enough sustenance in the area, their nomadic lifestyle in the blood still smouldered, the settlement experiment a failure.

 

The evening sky presented its fine colors again, Syrai is by a stream when a frantic call from Taqque reaches the ears making her jump before she saw the girl running. Returning to the overhang rock which formed a natural roof, she finds the man out cold, shaking gives no response.

 

The older was physically shaken by her companion, frantic, ‘We can’t leave him so!’

‘I must go.’

‘Now?’

‘How he will be saved.’

 

Wounds from the gauntlet and exhaustion of his overall travelling caught up.

Outdoors she picked medicinal plants and prepared them back at the hideout. In between his bouts of consciousness force fed him. His condition presents another danger – the tribe is due to move to new feeding grounds, reaching the tribe’s camp after they moved is no better than escape. Survival rests on the protection and support a tribe gives. The younger woman is fretful whilst having a man is good; this one can’t defend from beasts and uncomfortably chides herself privately for her inability to make medicine and suspects once home the elder will be an asset.

 

The older woman let her know the obvious it was learned from her tribe and in turn coaxes out the younger woman it’s something her people do not do.

 

The man is dragged closer to the camp fire to fend off night’s cold. They chat how the necklace is a powerful bond and how the couple met. Syrai insists this is a man to cherish, there are fewer like him than the girl can imagine.

 

Early hours of the morning before light he opens his eyes. Both women are relieved. When he gathers himself the couple in each other’s arms as the other woman looks on.

 

Taqque, ‘Ancestors be praised.’

The man thinks of one thing, ‘Are you alright?’

‘If anything happened to me I’d feel that way as long as you were alright.’

 

After the embrace. ‘When those snakes forced labour on me I thought “these men are who Oraggnum would bargain Taqque’s freedom for?” I didn’t tell you we reached out to the shaman and when she wouldn’t give good tidings I went to him.’ 

‘And in our ancestor’s favour you came for me.’

About the shaman’s god he will not allow the waters of fate to carry him without swimming against it first.

 

He came across as a man of shaken faith, ‘The shaman no matter how I tried would not tell me ancestors said the tribe must rescue you. Ancestors we worship would not help one of their own, gods that provide us with all. Only thing left was my own hands, Taqque. I defied them and the tribe for you.’

 

His mate was more steadfast. ‘“Ill water” could not keep us apart. Using your own hands was pleasing to the gods, don’t you see? You saved me and her, through you the people will know gods wash favour over us.’

 

Before first light and time of importance, the trio leaves before first light, hopefully the dark will hide them. As they trek no enemy is seen. Eating fruit is preferable to chasing prey owing that tools they have not and wish to reach safety of the tribe sooner.

 

The afternoon after the promise of their desire. In sight lay the camp, afar off people notice their approach. 

 

 


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